Articles Tagged with: Personal Work

AN IMAGE ALMANAC: 2015

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2015 IN PICTURES.


 

So, 2015 marked the beginning of my third year as a working photographer and this post is a simple look back at some of the images I’ve created for clients (and some just for myself) in the past 12 months.

Thank you if you’ve been reading my posts and thank you even more if you’ve been commenting sand sharing them. It’s great having you along for the ride. I wish you bagloads of prosperity, creativity and joy in 2016.

Images (click on each for full image):

Top: Carmen in rehearsals photographed for Glyndebourne Productions Ltd; Actress Caroline O’Hara for her publicity portfolio; Chocolate dipped oranges – commercial advertising photography for Ilze’s Chocolat.

Middle: Lookbook photoshoot for Siren Design/Charter Place (model: Nina Sever); UK Prime Minister David Cameron and President Xi of China photographed at London’s Mansion House for innovision/UKTI; Detail from ‘A Soho Day’ for Siren Design.

Bottom: Commercial advertising photography for Ilze’s Chocolat; Record Shop Day, Soho; Portrait from SCT at 50 reportage.


All images © James Bellorini. All rights reserved (apart from innovision/UKTI images which are held under Crown Copyright).

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers.


A CERTAIN UNCERTAINTY

A Certain Uncertainty - On Staying Curious

Leaving Lewiston – Maine, USA

ON STAYING CURIOUS.


I guess that most of us are curious about something. What makes you curious?

What gets into you enough that you want to know more about it until it’s almost obsessive?

Curiosity is one of my main motivators. Actually it’s the main one if I think about.

I’m curious about a ridiculous amount of things: London’s Oxford Street, Iceland (the country not the shop…although who knows!), smartphones, the comics of the Luna brothers, making the ultimate smoothie, visual composition (I get a bit obsessive about this one), videography, New Mexico, blogging, Caravaggio … the list goes on and on actually.

As a photographer curiosity is part of my everyday process. My internal dialogue when I’m shooting goes something like this: ‘Who’s that? What are they doing? What’s their story? What’s that place over there? What’s happening? How can I get under the skin of this? Have I understood as much as I can right now?’

Our lives are in many ways vehicles for finding ways to answer those kinds of questions. I happen to use a camera to do it; for you it might be something completely different. I don’t always succeed. But even being willing to be on the journey is part of being curious.

There are many demands on us these days, demands that often keep us locked into our habits. Habits that can be hard to break. As a result being curious is often quite a battle. Curiosity means remaining open to the unknown: the stranger, the new journey, experiencing a different culture, or a change to our routine.

So curiosity is something that is necessary to growth (witness the eternal children’s question: WHY?) and scary at the same time (isn’t that just always the way with growth?!!).

I’m not a ‘trained’ photographer in any academic sense of the word. I’ve developed any practice (such as it is) through simply shooting, making mistakes (a lot of those!), re-shooting, reading reading reading, and listening to the advice of those who’ve been there before me. As a consequence nearly everything I do is a form of learning driven by curiosity: to understand more of what I am seeing and how I see it. That never ceases.

And yeah it’s a blessing and a curse. Staying curious is like developing an internal restlessness, it provides energy and forward motion certainly; but on the other hand it’s a case of learning to be comfortable in the centre of the unknown. Not always easy but perhaps creatively worthwhile.

That in turn takes time. And patience – something that our Western culture no longer seems to hold very highly. I mean to really achieve the full fruition of one’s curiosity takes a lifetime and, as we know, we are all becoming prone to the need for hyper-fast results that are often short-lived. And I’m just as prone to that as anyone so don’t let me give the impression of any superiority here. I’m just as fond of my social media feed fix as the next person!

But curiosity (married with patience) is a good thing. They manifest themselves as resisting the temptations to leave something too soon or to stop asking the important questions. Its another one of those small acts of rebellion I’ve talked about before (you can find another one here).

After all isn’t our natural curiosity a desire to journey deeper into our selves? To understand our motivations for living?

Woah! Got a bit philosophical there but I think it’s true. In my case it is anyway.

The more curious (and patient) I am the more I see that ALL of life is there to be engaged with. The ‘ugly’, the beautiful, all manner of ideas, truths, relationships, collaborations, the new and the decayed etc. So, by extension, photography becomes not just about taking pictures but about attempting to hear the dialogue the world is having with us. The unique conversation.

At the same time it is an opportunity to stretch the self technically and creatively. And always to ‘fail better’ as the great Samuel Beckett once wrote. Always, and with permission to do so.

There’s a few things that I think are fun to explore when it comes to remaining curious. In no particular order:

  • Make-believe/temporary re-invention. This comes from my background working in the theatre and performing arts, but viewing the world through different eyes, pretending to be someone or something else is a fun way to see and feel differently. For example, my favourite is to pretend to be a Martian visiting earth for the first time – what do I see that I find interesting? What am I drawn to today that yesterday I would not have noticed because it seemed so commonplace and yet today, well, it looks…..? 
  • Daily dispatch. This is something that I learnt from reading the wise and playful Austin Kleon whose books Show Your Work and Steal Like An Artist are invaluable mini credos for the creatively curious. Put simply a daily dispatch is exactly what it says on the tin: something about your work or process that you put out somewhere every day. 
  • Notebook. Digital or pen and paper. The Google Keep app is an absolute gem for digital thinking. But whatever you use, our thoughts and the process of writing about them remind us what we’re curious about or what we might become curious about without influence. And that limit of influence is important because it’s easy to get sucked into what others (media, fashion, peers etc) deem as important. If we get beyond that we find out what we are truly curious about i.e. what our hearts are curious about which leads to all sorts of good stuff.
  • Working imagery/videos (or recognising that everything is work-in-progress). So perfectionism is a creativity killer – we all know that right? You can be awash with curiosity and that will motivate the journey, the need for answers, but (take it from me, I’ve been there) perfectionism can quash that feeling dead. Re-framing everything as work-in-progress is a great way to free that up and keep it alive. I now do this by approaching my work in this way as much as I can (admittedly that’s harder with client work but it’s about finding some balance). This goes back to the Samuel Beckett quote above: permission to ‘fail better’ which I take as meaning that there is no such thing as failure where creativity is concerned.
  • Scrapbook. I wrote about this recently here. But scrapbooks to me are an essential part of the curiosity tool-kit. Similarly to the previous point, they maintain a sense of work-in-progress and flexibility – for example, putting unrelated cuttings next to each other without any particular agenda is an indelibly curiosity driven thing to do. Maybe curiosity is something akin to knowing there are rules but breaking them any way? Which leads me on to the next point:
  • Throwing out the normsThat’s the personal norms, and even the social ones too perhaps. Not in any way that damages others, but the ones that might hold you back. Our comfort zones again and again. And believe me there are times when I wish I could go back a decade or so and retake certain paths in my life so that I wasn’t quite so stuck in certain places. It doesn’t get easier as you get older but harder to break those comfort zones. So take the chances when they come. Or be prepared to fight harder to stay curious as you ‘mature’.
  • Knowing the self in connection to communityIsolation is a sure-fire way to dim curiosity. And it’s very easy to become isolated especially if, like me, you’re a freelancer working on your own. Being part of a community/communities, or seeking out ones that you might connect with is a great way to feed and inspire curiosity. They are places for questions to be asked, for ideas to be thrown around, and for new ones to arise. If you find you’re spending too much time alone in front of the computer or in your work-space then find a like-minded community and go talk. 
  • Listen to music. I don’t need to say much about this do I? Music feeds our brains in ways we are only just beginning to understand and for that reason alone it has to have some impact on our natural curiosity. Something about music for me feeds that curiosity energy.

Please tell me what you’re curious about – I bet there are some real curiosities out there.

Image © James Bellorini

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Sonisphere UK, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers. 


SCRAPBOOKS ARE NOT CRAP BOOKS

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SCRAPBOOKS & CREATIVE PLAY.


What do you do with your old magazines or newspapers? Or (if like me you’re a photographer) your discarded contact sheets and unused prints that won’t ever see the light of day? Or even random bits of printed matter that catch your eye lying around on the street? Well call me old-fashioned, but I still gather them into what once upon a time we used to call scrapbooks.

I wasn’t even sure if scrapbooks still existed when I began writing this post (although I suppose Pinterest is a digital version of sorts), but a quick search on Amazon threw up a slew of very fancy versions so I guess they are still ‘a thing’.

Anyway, if you don’t know what one is, basically the idea is to collect your scraps and cutouts, get jiggy with glue and/or tape, and paste them into your book how you want. It’s lo-fi curation at it’s most hands on and tactile. But more than that it’s also a great form of creative freewheeling and play.

I tend to cut up a lot of my own work and use it quite brutally. In fact, as you can see from the images above, I often score and scratch the surfaces with a knife and then paint over them. Maybe that’s a healthy form of deconstruction?

I also give vent to verbal imagery and thoughts that don’t follow any logic or might rise as a suggestion from what I’ve pasted together. A kind of automatic writing.

And yes I confess to appropriating some found imagery and using it in contexts that wouldn’t normally be their home, so apologies if anyone out there is offended. I’m not making any money from them but using them because they are usually visually striking or speak to me in some way.

Anyway if cutting things up and sticking them in over-sized books appeals to you, I recommend it as a creative tool. It helps ‘out of the box’ thinking, breaks down ideas that have been stuck, preconceptions, or points to new directions. It also helps remove preciousness or perfectionism which in my case can only be a good thing.

Mostly though the value of a scrapbook is simply in the doing, the cutting and pasting, a form of collecting and ‘doodling’. The joy is enough.

Why am I highlighting this today in terms of my image making?

Well, recently I’ve given myself permission to try to unlearn elements of my practice as a photographer (and my ‘learned’ historic creativity in general) – to try to see again after half a lifetime of believing I was ‘seeing’. I’m hoping this will alter and improve my creative output. The scrapbook process is really helpful here. It’s pure playing. Trying to leap over or around logic and reason. And it often throws up unexpected things: unique juxtapositions, project ideas, a ‘hook’ or theme, who knows. 

One thing I have noticed is that a scrapbook distills the symbols and visual elements that I find appealing. It generates a kind of personal lexicon or dictionary and that is great to mine elsewhere in my work.

So forgive my indulgence in showing some pages here from my scrapbooks, but I hope that this might be impetus enough to send you on a quest to start (or keep going with) your own.

Actually there’s a great book called Photographer’s Sketchbooks published by Thames & Hudson that’s worth checking out – I’m not alone!!

So is there anyone else out there that indulges this passion for scrapbooks? I’d love to hear from you or better still share some of your pages if you can.

All images © James Bellorini 2015

James is a commercial, editorial and documentary photographer. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organisations/brands. Recent clients include: Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Sonisphere UK, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc.  

 


WORLD PHOTOGRAPHY DAY PLEDGES

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A TONGUE-IN-CHEEK LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHIC PLEDGES.


I pledge my allegiance to the camera – though don’t try to make me a single-system patriot. May I be free to be a photographic Don Juan and use Canon, Leica, Fuji and Mamiya and/or whatever else comes to hand depending on the requirements of my work or my creative promptings.

I pledge my allegiance to both digital photography and old-school analogue photography – may they both remind me that light is my master and guide.

I pledge to always be reminded that a camera is an object of great wonder and joy to me – that it is an incredible tool that has the power to change our perception of the world, the way we look at it, and the people we meet.

I pledge my allegiance to photography as a medium – that it makes me who I am; and that as an introvert when I have a camera in my hand I have a reason to meet, talk, and engage.

I pledge my allegiance to ‘the moment’.

I pledge my allegiance to the power of photography to freeze time and literally make history.

I pledge my allegiance to photography being the most democratic of mediums  – that anyone can take pictures and enjoy it.

I pledge to honor that democracy by being as open to the world as possible. That I greet it and the people I meet without prejudice or preconception.

I pledge my allegiance to knowing that light is my teacher; and that form and matter my subject.

I pledge to abide by the formula: open mind + open heart + open eyes = photographer.

I pledge to learn the inverse square law by heart and to actually understand it practically (apologies for the photo jargon – an explanation for the layperson here).

I pledge my allegiance to people and diversity: all that richness of life, culture and visual information.

I pledge to continue working harder than I ever thought possible before I started working as a full-time photographer.

I pledge to daily ignore my G.A.S. or Gear Acquisition Syndrome (sorry more jargon – more explanation here).

I pledge to never stop learning about this wondrous, frustrating, inspirational and obsessive craft.

I pledge to always have a camera of some kind on me wherever and whenever I am.

I pledge to honor the clients who have seen fit to believe enough in me to keep coming back. And I pledge to honor those I haven’t even met yet.

I pledge to say thank you to all those close enough to me that they have to put up with all the tears of joy and sorrow that being a professional photographer makes me shed.

And finally, I’m proud to say I’m a photographer and a world citizen. I can’t help it, they’re in my blood.

All images © James Bellorini 2015. All rights reserved.

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. 

 


VENICE BEACH – ST. PATRICK’S DAY

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FROM MY USA PHOTO JOURNAL 2013

Photographed on St. Patrick’s Day. 
 
Canon 5D MkIII & Fuji X100

All images © James Bellorini 2013. All Rights Reserved.

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers. 


LEICA MEET: SELECTION OF EXCELLENCE

Leica Meet Selection Of ExcellenceI’m privileged to have this image chosen in the latest Leica Meet Selection of Excellence. You can see the full selection of images from all the photographers chosen here.

It was taken at Leica Meet Soho in early 2014. It now forms part of my ongoing ‘Polarities’ street project based in and around the Oxford Street/Centrepoint area of London.
 
Leica M with 35mm Summicron Lens.

Edited in Lightroom & Alien Skin Exposure 6.

Image © James Bellorini. All Rights Reserved.

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers. 


BERWICK STREET, SOHO

London-Leica---Berwick-Street-Market-1-23-1-14

Leica M with Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f1.7 lens

Image © James Bellorini 2014. All Rights Reserved.

James is an editorial and documentary photographer working for the commercial and consumer markets. He started shooting professionally in 2013 and has since worked with advertising agencies, design agencies, entrepreneurs, performers, musicians, DJ’s, singers, models, and culture and entertainment organizations/brands. Recent clients include: Innovision, UKTI, Siren Design, Glyndebourne Productions Ltd, Stone Nest, The Old Vic etc. In September 2015 he joined the Redeye Network’s Lightbox programme for emerging photographers. 


THE SHOCK OF THE OLD

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The Shock of the Old: the inspiration of the Leica rangefinder.


In this post I want to look a little bit at how I’ve recently turned to the ‘past’ for inspiration. In this case Leica inspiration.

For about a year I’ve had an ongoing battle justifying to myself whether or not I should buy into the Leica ‘M’ rangefinder brand. I had dreamed of owning one for the majority of my life. Somewhere back in time, I had promised myself that one day I would own my very own Leica. I knew all about the heritage, history and hefty costs of the system.  And recent developments in CSC systems, including the great Fuji X system, had compromised any clear decision-making process.

But life is short and I have been fortunate enough recently to be in a position where I could finally take the ‘leap’ into the system and purchase a barely used M Type 240 digital rangefinder at a bargain price.

Thankfully, all my preconceptions of working with this system have been proven correct. If not surpassed. The experience of photographing with this camera is, for me, truly inspiring. I have experienced what I would term a ‘shock of the old’.

Leica Inspiration - Paris To Venice Train

French dawn (from Paris To Venice Train sequence). Leica M (240) with 50mm Summicron lens.

Why old?

Well, at heart this is still the same camera Leica came out with originally in the early 1950’s. It’s built around the same accurate focusing mechanism (a manual rangefinder) and has everything a photographer needs boiled down to the bare minimum: i.e. set it and forget it.

That’s not to say the camera in itself is technically retrograde in any way. It isn’t.

But the process of approaching photography with this system leans toward the retro. It immediately brings back sensations and experiences I had when I first picked up a camera in the mid-1980’s and began to take pictures. In those days it was my Father’s Canon AE1 with an amazing 50mm f1.4 lens that I borrowed. Time stood still. I felt like I was able to see under the skin of the world. What a beautiful endeavor: to put a frame around something and freeze it for all time!! In a sense every camera I have used since has been a device with which I have tried to replicate that experience. Some have come close. But none have brought me those same sensations as the Leica has.

It’s not just the technical aspects of using a Leica rangefinder: the engagement with subject through the viewfinder, the simplicity of the camera hardware, the quality of lenses (homegrown and third-party). All these things make photography with this system a sublime experience and, as ever with a camera that is a true working tool, it gets out of the way and lets me concentrate on what I’m looking at. But more than that, it is the emotional state it puts me into. In me it engenders an eagerness to see the world afresh daily. To exploit all the possibilities of light and story. And these things remind me of what really lie at the heart of photography for me. No matter what your experience level or supposed ‘standard’ it’s the emotional connection we have with the world around us and how we express that connection that makes for photographic joy and passion.

I gave a talk last week to a group of people from all sorts of backgrounds (artists, entrepreneurs, business people) about the nature of creativity and it’s correlation to play and playfulness. My focus was on how and why we re-discover the innocence we experienced as children when allowed to create without the hindrances of judgement, critical appraisal and peer pressure. When we are able to express humbly from the soul with a real sense of fun, freedom and adventure. The Leica has so far encouraged in me that state of being. It is willing to go with me however I want to go. It is a ‘yes’ device.

I’m not saying other camera’s might not be. But this one does it for me.

It also challenges me. Challenges any technical knowledge that had become ‘wooly’ due to other cameras doing too much of the thinking for me.

So for those of you who have ever considered buying into the Leica family and can afford to, I recommend it from with all my heart. But for those of you who can’t or do not want to, then try treading the Manual road again this week. Switch the auto-focus off, take control of the shutter speed and aperture and enjoy the freshness and real ‘seeing’ this brings – acknowledge that you are making images not just taking them, that you are making creative and playful decisions. Or maybe you still have a 35mm film camera – dust it off, take it for a whirl and see if that changes the way you approach your image-making. Then see where that takes you just for the fun of it. Creativity is, after all, about experimentation in a nurturing atmosphere: a space without reproach or market trends. We as photographers (or whatever your background) have to make ourselves get away from the constant requirements of our businesses and touch base with what it was that originally spoke to us about photography.

All images © James Bellorini 2014